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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE FIX

AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO A LESS THAN HOLY WORLD OF POLITICS

Some readers will welcome the breezy flippancy adopted from the Internet, but the thoughtful should look elsewhere for...

Cillizza, writer of The Fix, a political blog sponsored by the Washington Post, makes use of all the tricks of his trade in this debut about what he calls “the greatest sport,” American politics.

The author assembles a playbook that helps identify the players and strategies and proposes improvements. Like many others, Cillizza sees the economy as the major issue in upcoming elections, and he considers the effect of Hispanic population growth on the GOP and discusses the Supreme Court's contribution to campaign finance reform. The author compares the passions of Ron Paul's conservative supporters to his own attachment to his all-time favorite TV show, Friday Night Lights, and he offers his thoughts on books and movies about politics. From the blogging world, Cillizza provides websites he finds useful. In addition to his assessment of the current political climate, the author presents proposals for reform of the political arena—e.g., doubling the length of terms for House members, using nonpartisan panels for redistricting—each intended to improve the process. In a discussion of candidates who never had a chance of winning on the biggest stage, like Chris Dodd, Rick Santorum and Alexander Haig, Cillizza grants that it is possible for someone to have a reason for running for office even while knowing they will not prevail. Dodd did it, he writes because “he had always wanted to run for president and would have spent his life regretting it if he hadn’t given it a try,” and Santorum was concerned about his legacy. The author does not discuss the importance of contributing to the shaping of national debate as a reason for participating.

Some readers will welcome the breezy flippancy adopted from the Internet, but the thoughtful should look elsewhere for serious discussion.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-98709-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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